The week’s biggest-selling New Zealand books, as recorded by the Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list and described by Steve Braunias


1 Wawata by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

Dr Elder’s latest collection of wisdom could well remain at number one for many, many weeks. An excerpt:  “When I am exploring the forensic issues for our taitamāhine, our young women, that come into contact with the court, I see the cycles of pent-up female rage…Where does this aggression and destructive energy come from? It breaks my heart to say that most of these young women I have got to know through my work as a child and adolescent psychiatrist have developed their fearsome wrath because of being subjected to violence themselves…We must try to face our own anger, rage and desire to control and possess.”

2 Straight Up by Ruby Tui (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

One of the best books of 2020 was Impossible: My Story, by Stan Walker as told to Margie Thomson; one of the best books of this year is Ruby Tui’s memoir, as told to Margie Thomson. Both trusted her, both told her everything, both went into their lives with honesty and reflection – and Thomson shaped both their stories into powerful reads. An excerpt from Straight Up: “I started drinking hard out around age eleven. Grandad and his wife Sani helped me out sometimes when I got hungover, they would be rolling their eyes but they were real loving to me. They didn’t make me feel alone. They were like, Oh, her dad . . . They knew it would have been Dad giving me the alcohol. Dad being the black sheep saved me in a way because everyone kind of looked out for him extra and therefore me too.”

3 Simple Fancy by Margo Flanagan & Rosa Flanagan (Allen & Unwin, $45)

4 Here For a Good Time by Chris Parker (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

5 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

6 Dish Summer by Sarah Tuck & Claire Aldous (SCG Media, $45)

7 No Excuses by Dave Letele (Penguin Random House, $40)

8 Rooms by Jane Ussher & John Walsh (Massey University Press, $85)

Over 300 images of nice rooms in lovely bourgeois homes by the legendary Jane Ussher in one of the year’s best coffee table books, maybe the very best. Recommended.

Clever dialogue between pink things on the cover but would you really want that ugly lamp or those hideous candles in your house?

9 After the Tampa by Abbas Nazari (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

10 Salad by Margo Flanagan & Rosa Flanagan (Allen & Unwin, $45)


1 Kāwai by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $39.99)

Number one for the seventh consecutive week.

2 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

“Tama the magpie is the voice of The Axeman’s Carnival. Tama is a foundling, fallen from his nest, lifted into the ‘pillowed palm’ of Marnie while his panicked mother looks on. He’ s carried into a new life in a farmhouse, where he’s at first housed in the laundry, but later moves into the nursery, where he sleeps in a baby’s cot. Marnie does try to release him back into the wild once he’s old enough, but it doesn’t take. He’s found that half his family has been wiped out (death by car, death by cold) and living with humans seems a much more attractive existence…Like all gothic, mythic, tragic stories, it hurtles towards an inevitable crescendo, a cleansing catastrophe…The Axeman’s Carnival is remarkable, brilliant, a classic in the making”: from the best book review of the year, by Rachael King, last week in ReadingRoom.

3 The Doctor’s Wife by Fiona Sussman (David Bateman, $37.99)

4 Eddy, Eddy by Kate De Goldi (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)

5 Kāwai by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $49.99)

The hardback version.

6 Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

7 Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick (Penguin Random House, $36)

8 In Amber’s Wake by Christine Leunens (David Bateman, $34.99)

“Love is the most beautiful, poetic reality of life, one at its very essence, giving the deepest meaning to existence. You can’t fake it. In my new novel In Amber’s Wake, I make a brief allusion to the two French DGSE agents involved in the Rainbow Warrior bombing, Captain Dominique Prieur and Major Alain Mafart, who masqueraded as a honeymooning Swiss couple. Housekeepers at a hotel where they stayed noticed discrepancies between what they would have expected of a room occupied by newlyweds and what their room actually looked like, in all its telling details, which they later reported to police”: from an awesome story backgrounding her novel, by the author, in ReadingRoom.

I don’t like stickers on covers but they make a good point.

9 Tarquin the Honest by Gareth Ward (David Bateman, $34.99)

10 Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)

Steve Braunias is the literary editor of Newsroom's books section ReadingRoom, a noted writer at the NZ Herald, and the author of 10 books.

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